Monday 24 January 2022

LOTR: SBG - Fellowship of the Ring

These models were a blast from the past - some of the first GW models I painted - 20 years ago! I repainted some, tidied others and gave them my basic quick base - pva + sand + cheap brown craft paint + drybrush of choice.

I mostly have a random assortment of heroes and characters  as I bought my LoTR models in 'job lots' but I have multiples of various Fellowship. This is a complete original plastic set.

I also found a Grima Wormtongue and a 'proper' Radgast the Brown when ferreting through my 'heroes' tub. You know, not the birdshit-smeared abomination from the Hobbit movies, themselves three giant turds which I like to pretend never occurred. 

So you spend millions for the rights to a beloved book with a built-in fanbase, then change it completely, with brand new antagonists and characters. I mean, what were they thinking?

"Lets add in a character, Radgast the Brown . He's a powerful wizard like Gandalf and Saruman, only interested in nature."

"Cool, cool - how do you envision him fitting in?"

"He's not actually in the Hobbit though."

"Even better! We can show how much clever than Tolkien we studio writers are!"

"We'll give him an irrelevant role to pad out the movie, but - get this - we can have him ride a sled pulled by rabbits!"

"Woah! That's epic!"

"And - get this - we can give him a hat smeared in bird shit!"

"Hilarious - OK do it - you're a creative genius!"

It can only be arrogance. Studio writers who think they can do better than a famous, beloved author. Although in the case of Eragon, that wouldn't be hard. I quit after the second chapter as the author didn't actually know what half the words meant, was a master of 'tell don't show' and had more logic gaps than in filler episodes of TV series.

Obviously, you need to change some things when you transfer a book to another medium. But wholesale changes and needless additions to key plot points, motives and characters kinda make it a different story entirely. At which point you wonder why they bothered buy the film rights? Has no one noticed that the shows that follow books more closely seem to be the most well liked (Harry Potter, LoTR, first seasons of GoT).

I'm pretty sure a train wreck awaits Amazon's Lord of the Rings, Ring of Power (<- even the title is stupid: like Game of Thrones: The Throne) and it's likely range of heroic hobbits of various ethnicity and gender identities.You know, the hobbits who weren't even relevant in the Second Age. Jordan isn't an amazing author but Amazon managed to screw up Wheel of Time spectacularly. Heck, unlike GoT they had all the books! Change for the sake of change isn't a good rationale, especially when you have scriptwriters of such cringeworthy standard. Heck, even if it was just a fantasy show which shared the same character names it would be bad.   /rant

The Hobbits keep their original 20-y/o paint, merely touched up a bit.

Gandalf, Boromir and Aragon got new paint jobs as they didn't align with the movies. Somehow I had Aragon in a red outfit? Note to self: highlighting is too bold and aggressive - as I've been doing the 'wash last' technique like I do for 15mm - this is by going aggressively lighter with contrasting base colours, than washing at the end to mute/blend. This means you can skip some highlighting - fine for rank and file but probably not a good idea for main characters. Oh well, I'll dig out some metal versions later and do them more carefully then.

Gimli got a new paint job while Legolas only got a touch-up. Also note to self - learn photography as blurry phone photos are tiresome. 

I think my model count for 2022 stands at 182. I think I've even based the last of my LoTR models (admittedly, about 80 of them) so I feel the end is in sight. Being tired and sick is super productive on the painting front. I'm too tired to care much about fussy detail, and I'm too sick to concentrate on more complex high-effort work and hobbies. Painting is like colouring-in for dads!

Saturday 22 January 2022

LOTR SBG: Heroes (Elf, Gondor, Mordor)

I've kinda been mass-producing rank and file but I do need some heroes (LOTR does hinge around them, after all). Usually I spend more time on them but they are strictly to tabletop standard as I get tired easily.

I got these 10+ years ago; they're the original 2001-2005 sculpts. While Grisnakh (far right) is recognisable from the movies (as the one who chased Merry & Pippin into the woods and got stomped by Treebeard) I needed a quick google to find Gorbag and Shagrat and a banner bearer. They are all minor ~50 point heroes.

I needed the collector's guide to identify a few here. While Elrond, Galadriel (in blue, not white, as I hate painting bright whites) and Haldir aligned with their movie versions, I didn't recognise Legolas' dad (Thranduil, far left) and neither Gil-Galad or Glorfindel (top right and bottom right respectively). One of the elves is just a standard metal warrior who I gave a red cape and made a captain.

The elf heroes are some big hitters (in the 160-170pts range). To give you an idea of scale, a normal orc is 5pts. From memory, Glorfindel is a monster in CQC, easily soloing ringwraiths and capable of going toe to toe with balrogs. Why the heck he wasn't invited as part of the Fellowship is beyond me. I kinda wonder how the movies would have went if he was included. Gandalf wouldn't have taken the high dive in Moria, for starters.

I've got a few Faramirs - foot, mounted, and in ranger guise. I have one of his ranger sidekicks - Damrod? - along with Denethor and a captain and some bannermen.

I'm reading Two Towers to my daughter and she was very excited to see Galadriel. Her complaint about my wargames is there's never enough 'girl' fighters. Actually if anyone knows of any good sensible-sized female heads I'd like to know, as some of my modern special forces have had head swaps to turn them into girls and I'm running low.

My 8-year daughter took this shot, posed as she decided Galadriel was the most important character.

She also correctly identified Denethor as ranking leader of Gondor and asked if both her photos could be included on 'your internet thing.'  She has offered to take over photography for the blog if she gets to 'set them up' and pose them into dioramas.

Anyway, these heroes were not done to my usual hero standard, but they are functional and table-ready. My main aim is to clear out my 500+ strong LOTR pile, which has intimidated me for about 10 years. With 171 models completed this month, most of which are LOTR, I'm now past halfway - probably 2/3rds done.

Gondor is now joins Isengard, Elves, Moria, and Dwarves in the 'battle-ready' pile. Mordor is also good to go, but I feel like I should do something about the 60 or so cannonfodder orcs I have 'spare.' 

Only Easterlings and the intimidatingly-numerous Rohan remain as part of the 'empire of undercoat', and I'm quite excited about the former. 

As usual, this post is just to track progress and inspire other 'average' painters. Often blogs have flawlessly painted minis, crafted over many hours and countless coats and layers. I actually find them intimidating rather than inspirational. I like to represent the 'rest of us' - the time-poor dads for whom the undercoat-wash-highlight is the pinnacle of artistic achievement.

Friday 21 January 2022

LOTR: SBG - Gondor

I've been sick off and on (not COVID, but some other mystery fever which seems to randomly lay me out every second day) but I've actually found mini painting the one thing I can do with little mental effort. Or when listening to hours-long working-from-home briefings (it's like a podcast, only less exciting).

Anyway, I finished off most of my Gondor forces as they didn't require much mental effort. Black and silver, yay!

 Combined with 24 rank and file I did the other day, I've got about ~60 Gondor troops. This is typical of each of my LOTR factions as 50-60 is the upper end of the amount of minis the LOTR rules can handle in a single battle.

Another 37 models takes my 2022 tally of painted models (all genres) to 153. In less than a month it's probably better than my entire 2021 output, and I ascribe it to COVID which is only now sweeping through Australia.  (We had strict lockdowns and border quarantines, but in most states esp rural areas actually lived pretty ordinary daily lives, until our govt decided to 'let it rip' at Christmas and now we're basically repeating everyone else's mistakes, just a year later. I think the aim was to improve the economy but everyone's doing self-imposed lockdowns anyway so it backfired and we went from 1 death a day average to 70+) 


I only had 5 cavalry. Remember I bought these in random 'job lots' of about 50c or less a mini.

The metal Citadel Guard and Guards of the Fountain Court are probably OOP now. I really hate the universal switch to resin.

I only painted half my plastic Rangers of Gondor (actually have about a dozen+ metals as well); as painting non-uniform models in random colour schemes is too much for my tired brain - besides, the 'only 33% of your force as bows' rule means I'm not going to get to use many in a Gondor army anyway.

So I can now move Gondor into the '99% done' pile. Only Rohan and Easterlings to go; plus the option of doubling or even tripling my 32-strong force of Mordor rank-and-file orcs - the latter doesn't sound too fun to be honest. I also have ~50 metal heroes for various factions which I plan to be my 'reward' for finishing the armies. (I only do armies from LOTR movies, not the Hobbit movies, which I regard as non-canon*).

*I ranted about Tolkien's long-winded over-descriptiveness in another post, but having recently attempted Eragon with my daughter I appreciate Tolkien more. While the pacing can be excruciating, at least Tolkien has great literacy skills! Eragon is like reading a fanfic by Grade 7 kid who just discovered adjectives and transferred the plot of Star Wars to a fantasy setting.

I had hopes of doing more creative stuff like working on and playtesting rules and doing articles on game design, but my brain is too fuzzy. Well, at least the lead mountain is diminishing!

Before I get too cocky, I realise I still have a LOT of Infinity models that sit staring accusingly at me but I've always felt my painting skills were inadequate for their sculpts at the best of times...

Monday 10 January 2022

Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game - Rules Manual - Review

Due to painting hundreds of (2001 era) LOTR minis I bought years ago for literal cents, I felt it might be OK to splurge on an updated rulebook. At $98AUD it's definitely a luxury purchase. I'd rate the original 2001 rules as some of the best and most clean and elegant GW has ever produced - along with the OOP spin offs Legends of the Old West (cowboys) and Legends of the High Seas (pirates). I always thought a d10 version of this could have been a better way forward for 40K. So how resistant have the original 2001 rules been to GW's tendency to complication and meddling?

A: While there's more special rules, it's still pretty good. It's the same core game.

LOTR would rival Blood Bowl and Battlefleet Gothic as my most played GW game. Here's a shot from 10 years ago, where I discovered the underrated goblin ability to scale vertical surfaces....

The Shiny

The rulebook is very nice. Having just spent $35 on an incomplete pdf (cough Killwager cough) your $98 (or cheaper if you don't pay the magical Australia penalty rates) buys you 200+ pages of some very nice production values in a glossy hardcover. There are lots of lovely photos of minis for reference and the rules are easy to read. Each gameplay phase has its own chapter. There's an index, but no quick reference (you need to pay GW $55 for that) and the army stats are in separate books - for Armies of LOTR or Armies of the Hobbit. Not codexes at least - the books have all the relevant armies from each film, but it was an extra $98 I was unwilling to pay. Given I also liked Battle Companies (LOTR's Necromunda/Mordhiem equivalent) - yep an extra $84 - and the 3 necessary rulebooks alone could have cost me $280AUD (aka $200 freedumbucks). Which would be fking ridiculous.  While the book itself is great, and is probably a fair price if you don't live in Australia, the overall 'buy in' is crazy. No wonder people pirate pdfs off the net. I'm not saying you can get everything ever printed by GW about LOTR if you google in the right places *cough cough* and of course it is wrong...  ...almost as wrong as charging people $200+ for the rules to your game which many competitors do for free)


Besides the insane rulebook+army book buy in ($200-280AUD) the rest is pretty reasonable. While the minis are smaller and less impressive (I personally prefer the more realistic, less potato-faced proportions) they are cheaper than 40K - you usually get twice as many models for the cost.  And the rules scale brilliantly - it handles 5 v 5 or 50 v 50 with equal aplomb. You could get started with a single unit box. Mentally, it's dead easy to learn - (it's similar to 40K yet simpler and has more naunce) and you'd rarely need to refer to the rulebook except ME:SBG has way more 'special rules' than the 2001 LOTR:SBG version. A tape with inches and a d6 and you're set.

Model stats are "Move, Fight, Shoot, Strength, Defence, Attacks, Wounds, Courage - all self explanatory. Heroes additionally have a finite amount of 1-3 Might, Will and Fate they can use to influence dice rolls, cheat death, perform magic, interrupt the initiative etc.

Basically, if you can cope with the initial rulebook sticker shock, the minis and armies are (relative to GW) cheap, easy to paint and the core game itself is easy to grasp.

I've continued to sporadically paint and play LOTR over the years - the sole GW game that has held my interest over time.. The red-headed stepchild of GW, LOTR has never been well appreciated...

Initiative, Activation & Movement

LOTR:SBG moved away from IGOUGO back in 2001 (back in 40K - 5th ed?) and broke up the turns into phases, which makes the game flow more. Sides roll d6 each, winner chooses who has "Priority." Roughly, it is P1 move, P2 move, P1 shoot, P2 shoot, P1 choose melee sequence. Sometimes not having priority is good (it means you can react to their move) and your heroes (and nearby troops) can act out of sequence; giving them actual command/control rather than just being tanks/dps monsters.

Models have a 1" AoE 'control zone' which enemies cannot move through, allowing you to make formations and shieldwalls and making the fight sequence (who fights who first) and 'pushback' melee results very relevant.

There are rules for climbing, defending obstacles, crawling, climbing, jumping etc and all tend to consistently use a simple method - roll d6, 1=great, 2-5=average, 6=disaster.


Shooting is just rolling a number or higher on a d6. Targets can roll a cover save if appropriate. Then you need to consult the 'to wound' chart. I'm not a fan of having to consult a chart for something so often used in the game, but you'll probably quickly memorize the most common combinations. 

Fight (melee) is just rolling a dice for each Attack. The Fight stat itself is just relevant for winning ties. I've never liked this method as I always feel more Attacks >>> Fight skill. It's quick to resolve, though.

The loser backs away 1" (which opens up gaps in formations due to the 'control zone' rule) then the winner rolls for wounds according to the same damage chart as Shooting. Models trapped by terrain or friendlies who cannot move aside, must roll for double wounds. 

Courage is tested when armies lose 50% - annoyingly this is every model in your force, for the remainder of the game - or when faced with a Terror-inducing opponent. Heroes not in melee can automatically rally nearby friendlies if they pass their Courage roll.

 Heroes, Monsters & Wargear

Heroes are done better here than in many other games.  They have a finite supply (1-3) of Might, Will and Fate. Once used they are gone. 

Might - the most interesting - allows you to modify dice rolls by +1 or perform Heroic Actions (basically moving and shooting/fighting out of sequence with yourself or nearby allies). A new addition is specialized heroic actions for particular heroes - such as double movement, shooting re-rolls, 'overboost' spells, and huge fight and defence boosts. These special rules are new to MESBG and while they add flavour and character they are something else to remember. Will is for casting spells and resisting magic. Fate allows you an extra 'save' throw to block a wound. So someone like Boromir might logically have lots of Might, probably no Will and and not much Fate.

I often borrow elements of this idea for my games, as it has simple resource management, and allows heroes to actually 'command' by acting out of sequence with nearby friendlies, making organic 'squads' happen naturally rather than being constrained by artificial "stay within 3" cohesion of each other."

Monsters also have some cinematic power attacks allowing them to hurl, barge or rend. These can be used to break through formations, rip apart well armoured foes, and fling enemies into foes or obstacles, or off a cliff. 

Weapons have simple, subtle rules that differentiate them. Spears allow the second rank to add +1 attack to the frontline. Elven weapons are more likely to win tied Fight rolls. Two-handed weapons are unwieldy to fight with but do more damage.  The weapons may also (circa 2018) do special strikes like feint+stab, piercing strike, stun and whirl which have unique benefits. 

The LOTR rules served as the base of many other games - here's French and Indian wars scouts fighting dinosaurs which were easily adapted from the core rules with surprisingly few tweaks...

Magic & Special Rules

Magic can be cast in the movement phase. The magician sgets 1d6 each Will spent and if it passes the spell's casting value the spell succeeds. Targets can use Will to resist the sorcery - if they pass the casting value they negate the spell. There are some 36 spells, which is probably reasonable ME:SBG is a collection of all prior rules. There are also 37 special rules for both characters (swift movement, terror, expert shot, stalk unseen) and gear (poisoned weapons, blades of dead, bane) which again is pretty restrained. 

There are also advanced rules for shallow/deep water, carrying objects, swimming, passengers on mounts, sentries etc - which are useful for specific scenarios. There are also rules for sieges and siege weapons for recreating particular battles.

There are rules for competitive play. I always appreciate a points system - while inevitably flawed, they are a good rule of thumb to balance forces even in fun games with kids. Different heroes allow more rank-and-file to be brought; Aragon allows 18 troops to be brought, but a minor hero might only allow 6. There are 12 scenarios which is a bit above average.

The remaining 100 pages of the book are army photos (aka wargaming pr0n) of all the Hobbit and LOTR armies which is a useful reference - but I'd rather they included the stats and didn't charge me $98 for an extra book! There are also 4 example armies showing their points value and explaining the thought process behind it.


A very well laid out book on it's own, but when you need 1-2 extra books the price quickly becomes excessive. The rules are familiar and straightforward, and although quite a few special rules (especially around heroes) have been added it retains the 'clean' core of 2001. It's one of the rare few games that scales from 5v5 to 50v50, and you can start with relatively few models which are also cheaper than GW's main lines.

While initiative/activation is simple it's still broken up into 4-5 phases, allowing tactical interplay and reaction beyond IGOUGO. I like how heroes actually can form organic squads without restrictive cohesion rules. This is rare. Might/Will/Fate add a simple layer of resource management and also allows heroes to 'lead' aka meddle with the initiative sequence - they aren't just 'dps' or 'tanks.'

ME:SBG does unfortunately use quite a few different resolution mechanics, and the extra rules creep plus the damage chart means it isn't quite the rulebook-free experience it could be. Nonetheless, I contend it's still one of the best rulesets GW ever produced. It's also been remarkably resilient to meddling - except for extra bolt on fluff, 20 years later it's still pretty much the same as it was in 2001 - a testament to it's original design. While I remember Mordhiem and Blood Bowl with nostalgia, they are really dated and clunky.  LOTR has really held up well over time. If only the rulebooks were cheaper.

You can use LOTR  for War of the Roses with pretty much 0 adaption. 
 Other folk have already done some work such as the Age of the Trebuchet adapotion.

Recommended: If you've got the coin, yeah. If you like LOTR, absolutely. Apart from the rulebooks themselves(!), building an army is relatively cheap - for GW.  Even if you don't like fantasy - I often use it as a reference, and it adapts well for historical battles - you could play ancients/dark ages/medieval skirmishes with almost 0 adjustment*, and GW even published cowboy and pirate versions

If you just want the core rules and don't need the latest and greatest: an Ebay copy of the old rules - maybe the old small softcover blue book which even has the unit profiles? - would be 1/4 of the price. It would certainly be an easy way to introduce a player into historical gaming.

*I remember a fanmade viking game called Age of Blood v2 which I'm actually looking for (freewargaming link is broken) to play with my kids who have found and appropriated some of my PSC/Gripping Beast minis...

Sunday 9 January 2022

LOTR: SBG - More Speedpainted Elves & Goblins

I'm both feeling sick, and also flooded in (it's Queensland, cyclones are inevitable - I'm talking a 10m+ river rise). So I'm quite productive paint-wise, as I am too crook to do outside tasks (like mow my ankle-length grass), but just OK enough to listlessly paint some rank and file to a mediocore-yet-table-ready standard.

First, 24 Moria goblins gives me a total of 48 Moria cannon fodder. Once I finish my Balrog I'm pretty much done, as I've already done prowlers, captains and cave trolls last Christmas.

 Next, the final 12 wood elf rangers meaning I've done the whole box. Some were repaints from my earliest ever painting efforts from ~15? years ago. Heck, this blog dates back to 2011.  I still have half a dozen elven heroes to paint but I'll save those for when I'm more alert/coherent.

Finally, the final 12 Galadhrim. I tend to paint in multiples of 12 - basically it means paint has dried sufficiently by the time I return to the first model in the queue, and with my casual speedpaint style (base+wash+highlights) I can finish 12 all in an hour or so. It's a manageable 'chunk.' 

So these 48 miniatures means my 2022 total painted now stands at 116 after only 10 days.  It's probably not a lot to the masochists suckers dedicated souls who paint regiments of Napoleonics, but for someone like me who only plays skirmish games with under 20 per side, it's a fair chunk.

My LOTR lead mountain of 500+ minis has has a significant bite taken out of it.

99% DONE: My elves, uruks, dwarves and goblins are pretty much completed save the odd hero or monster.

WORKING ON: Mordor and Gondor are halfway- I have 40 or so painted of each but another 40 each to go. They are functional, painted armies though.

HAVEN'T TOUCHED: I have a metric shitton of Rohirrim (20+ cavalry, 60+ foot) and a bunch of Easterlings (~80 various). I did watch Two Towers last night for inspiration so there may be some movement on the Rohan box. If only the LOTR wasn't shot with that bloody blue-green tint so I could actually see the colours....

As I'm feeling sick and un-alert, I'm not doing any playtesting, game design analysis etc lately. However I DID buy the new Middle Earth: SBG core rules for $70AUD (a steal as they are usually $98AD) which arrived before the floodwaters.

It's weird that GW does not take the cake for most stupidly overpriced thing I bought all holidays - that'd be a $35AUD Killwager PDF. An incomplete PDF at that. Early access comes to tabletop wargaming - yay. That's teach me to break my 'no PDF is worth more that $10' rule.

Anyway, I doubt any blog readers have never encountered LOTR:SBG - even as GW's redheaded stepchild it's bigger than 99% of other indie company releases - but I could do a review if anyone is interested. If only for the novelty of hearing me praising GW - I believe it's the best rules GW has ever produced.

Friday 7 January 2022

Skirmish Sangin Rules Review

I'm exploring modern/near future combat at the moment, as part of making my own homebrew rules and also in hopes I'll find something good so I don't HAVE to make my own rules.

Sadly, Skirmish Sangin isn't what I'm looking for. For a start, it's not a wargame.

The Shiny

It's a 169-page PDF, pretty well designed and printer friendly.  They make it clear their focus is on narrative skirmishes (so far so good) with a bit of background on Afghanistan. There are lots of lovely photos of minis and it is easy to read. There is also a detailed index for finding things. The time and ground scale is clear (3" is ~6m). I found the squad weapon loadouts etc quite useful; there is info for British, NZ, FFL, SBS, SAS, US as well as insurgent forces etc. There are plenty of quick reference sheets. The rules are sensibly laid out. 

Overhead - aka What You Need to Play

D6s? Easy. But two d10s for d100 (%) sounds a bit ominous and gives me RPG vibes. Eek! Rifles do 2d10 damage. And there are rolls like 1d10+4.  This is clunky and over complex - I don't even like this in a RPG. Not only are there several dice resolution mechanics, but they aren't easy to remember if they vary from weapon to weapon. It's made for 6-10 soldiers per side, which frankly is looking overly optimistic.

An average soldier has 1d10+10 body, 1d10+4 armour, 55% morale, 3 AP in "stats" and the skills of Pistol (bodyx3 =%); rifle (bodyx3+10%), spot 100%, first aid 40%, heavy weapons (bodyx2=%); throw (bodyx3=%); forward observer (bodyx2=%)

The above paragraph should tell you everything you need to know about how gluggy, convoluted, old school, and RPG-ish this game is. Creating as force is about as laborious as setting up a D&D party.

This is one member of your 10-man squad.

Activation & Initiative

Yes, the players use action points (yay the 90s) and their "Body" stat determines in which of the 10 combat phrases they activate - basically you go down your forces from highest to lowest BODY (representing agility etc) checking who can activate. Models can use 3AP in each phase they are active, to do the usual walk, climb a high obstacle, climb a low obstacle, climb through a window, stand up from prone, kneel - you get the idea, it's pretty detailed. 

On the upside, the action is broken into small segments and I kinda like the 'SFB impulse' idea.

Models must spot enemies in their 180 front arc - this is 100% but can be reduced by cover, visibility conditions, and increased by target movement etc. There's a lot to keep track of. There are 37(!) spotting modifiers. That must be a modifier record out of all the rules I've ever owned. 

The dedication to modifiers and charts is impressive. Possibly a record? 
Especially since spotting is something you do relatively often...


Shooting also has plenty of modifiers but a mere 27 this time. These are a % change i.e. a solider may have a 45% chance to hit, but +/- various 10% increments. Surprisingly, weapons are lumped together by type i.e. SMG, assault rifle, sniper rifle, LMG and there's no DMR or differentiation by calibre. Given the level of detail, I was expecting weapons to be all different i.e. M4 having different stats to a M16. Units can 'snap fire' out of sequence with -30% shooting and forfeit their next activation.

When hit models can make armour rolls (1d10+4 etc) to block incoming damage. Damage that exceeds this has effects on the wound chart.  Of course each model also has 12 hitpoints. Hitpoints, bah. Models can also fall unconscious.

The wound table is predictably detailed, e.g. seriously wounded models -20% off morale of allies in 12" due to their screaming, among 6 other effects of being seriously wounded. Of course, you can also have a light, medium, or critical wound with their own accompanying effects.

There are predictably detailed rules for grenades, smoke launchers, etc. In hand to hand combat sides take turns hitting each other (meh) but can use special multiple-AP maneuvers to modify to hit/damage, like feinting, circling, all out attack etc (cool). I like variety in melee, allowing some decisions not just shoving models together and rolling dice (I think this is food for a game design article).

There are lots of % morale tests, with the game recommending stacking counters for each 10% morale penalty. Agh, just please - no. Well, there are only 13 modifiers this time, so perhaps I shouldn't complain...

There are rules for heavy and vehicle weapons, vehicle combat and indirect fire but I'm not going to waste time describing them as by now you should know if this is sort of game you'll love or loathe. I suppose there is an audience for clunky convoluted pseudo RPGs*...

*There is even a whole page of "fumbles" and "criticals" - if you ever roll a 01 or 00 on your % dice. There are penetration charts taking up a whole page. There are literally hundreds of modifiers for various actions. (Yes, vehicles get their own tables and modifiers). Ironically, a dedicated RPG like Savage Worlds has smoother, more consistent gameplay and combat.

The PDF has lovely art and is one of the best laid out PDFs I've owned.


While well presented in a good PDF, Skirmish Sangin is a clunky 1990s RPG dressed up as a modern narrative skirmish game. If you love convoluted rules, charts and think game design peaked in the 1990s with WRG and you think D&D has fluid combat, you may love this. There are literally a hundred modifiers, charts galore, many different dice mechanics, and plenty of opportunity to clutter the table with tokens. If you can imagine it, there is probably a detailed rule explaining exactly how you can do it. However, I found it was odd that along with such excessive detail things like DMRs were absent and it didn't differentiate between 5.56 and 7.62mm rifles.  I liked the melee options and thought the activation method was interesting but Skirmish Sangin is not my style. But if you enjoy lots of dice rolling and looking up charts and modifiers over actually playing a game, you'll love this. 

Recommended? No.

While not an exhaustive list, these are some other modern warfare options I've tried lately:

Ambush Alley is Stargrunt remastered and while good is actually slower/gluggier than it seems. Osprey.

Black Ops is 40K Kill Team with TFL card mechanics. Cheap Osprey blue book.

Spectre is a solid generic toolkit but I've only played the alpha rules due to the $50(!) P&P.

Killwager is very innovative and Infinity-esque but terribly explained, overpriced and incomplete.

5 Core/5 Parasecs if you want the RPG campaign experience without the clunky 90s mechanics

Gruntz: Spec Ops is rebadged Warmachine rules. PDF.

Infinity: Code One is free and is a simple version of the excellent but complex sci fi Infinity rules.

Zona Alfa is STALKER post-apoc; a pretty straightforward set of rules. Another cheap Osprey title.

Out of these, Infinity and Ambush Alley I've played the most, and Spectre is what I'd probably recommend to a player new to moderns or wargaming.

LOTR SBG: Gondor, Wargs, Galadhrim (+ Moderns!)

 I'm determined to make inroads in my unpainted LOTR mountain.  While I have not even touched Rohan or Easterlings, I have made significant inroads in Elves, Gondor, Dwarves, Uruk Hai, Moria and Mordor.

First, the 12 Galadhrim I said I would paint.

The, speedpainted some 24 Gondor to get some runs on the board. They only take a few minutes each.

Man, the old school warg sculpts are BAD. Huge mold lines, joins, etc. I admit I was even more casual than usual painting them as they didn't seem 'worth it' neither did I feel like mucking around with greenstuff.

The 9 wargs will also serve as monsters in my "Forgotten" homebrew horror rules. Here they confront some luckless Eureka legionaires. I have painted 12 of these.  They are nice sculpts but like most Eureka stuff the legs are a little stumpy.

I also touched up some 11 Empress US troops. Both Eureka and Empress work well together although both have some weird poses. I'm not a military expert but the poses just seem 'off'.

I've also eyed off Spectre (the third 'big' name in 28mm moderns) as they have some great PMCs but the prices (and postage) are a bit steep. It worked out $190AUD aka $140USD (including $50 postage) for a softcover rulebook ($50) and about 10 minis. It makes GW look like a bargain - a starter 40K box with a rulebook, terrain and 30+ minis is only $120AUD. Yikes! I'm all for supporting smaller mini companies but there is a limit. I'm probably going to go with Empress in future because of the aforesaid stumpy Eureka legs and prohibitive Spectre pricing. Also Empress has interchangable heads allowing me to make unique special forces wizards for my paranormal squads.

Anyway, 68 minis isn't too shabby and makes a good start to 2022.